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\”Fortitude\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (FORTITUDE): Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.

Few things inspire me more than seeing someone display fortitude. These are people we can depend on to “go the distance” and not falter at the first sign of adversity. They inspire me!

In the physical realm, fortitude is often labeled “guts” and is synonymous with courage. Those who exemplify fortitude are able to overcome fear of bodily harm or fatigue to fulfill their duty. In the moral realm, those who exemplify fortitude stand firm on their values, moral principles and convictions. However, both physical and moral fortitude require mental strength.

Like any other virtue, fortitude can be developed by practice until it becomes habit. But, one cannot develop strength of mind and be coddled at the same time. Mental toughness is the result of dealing with adversity—no adversity, no mental strengthening. So, we need to have a series of challenges that we must overcome. As each challenge is mastered, a more difficult obstacle should be faced.

For example, long distance running can be a challenge. When one runs in a group, there is always the problem of maintaining group integrity with the “gazelles” and those who truly struggle. Fixing on an endpoint often helps a runner to maintain formation and not quit. Running north along South Jefferson early in the morning and seeing the GMC gates on the horizon often gives weakening legs strength to persevere. However, few things will sap the life out of a runner’s legs than to run past the perceived endpoint. But, occasionally doing so builds mental toughness.

Too many of our children seen to follow the mantra, “when the going gets tough, quit.” I believe that this phenomenon is partly attributable to the proliferation of video games where a player who is doing poorly can simply push the re-set button and start over. The problem is that life does not have many do-overs. Although I am sure that parents and educators who shelter children from adversity believe they are doing the right thing, ultimately they are doing a disservice. Perhaps that is why one seldom hears the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Fortitude will never develop from a coddled or sheltered life.
The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

To be fond of learning is near to wisdom; to practice with vigour is near to benevolence; and to be conscious of shame is near to fortitude. Confucius, Philosopher

Guts are a combination of confidence, courage, conviction, strength of character, stick-to-itiveness, pugnaciousness, backbone, and intestinal fortitude. D.A. Benton, Author

There is but one philosophy and its name is fortitude! To bear is to conquer our fate. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Poet

Out of suffering comes the serious mind; out of salvation, the grateful heart; out of endurance, fortitude; out of deliverance, faith. John Ruskin, Social Theorist

Give us the fortitude to endure the things that cannot be changed, and the courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to know one from the other. Oliver Hart

Alexander received more bravery of mind by the pattern of Achilles, than be hearing the definition of fortitude. Sir Philip Sidney, Author

COL Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us